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What's a Trombone?

The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. As with all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player's vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Unlike most other brass instruments, which have valves that, when pressed, alter the pitch of the instrument, trombones instead have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch.

The word "trombone" derives from Italian tromba (trumpet) and -one (a suffix meaning "large"), so the name means "large trumpet". The trombone has a predominantly cylindrical bore like its valved counterpart, the baritone, in contrast to its conical valved counterparts: the cornet, the euphonium, and the French horn.


The trombone is a predominantly cylindrical tube bent into an elongated "S" shape. Rather than being completely cylindrical from end to end, the tube is a complex series of tapers with the smallest at the mouthpiece receiver and the largest just before the bell flare. The design of these tapers affects the intonation of the instrument. As with other brass instruments, sound is produced by blowing air through pursed lips producing a vibration that creates a standing wave in the instrument.

The detachable cup-shaped mouthpiece is similar to that of the baritone horn and closely related to that of the trumpet. It has the venturi:[1] a small constriction of the air column that adds resistance greatly affecting the tone of the instrument and is inserted into the mouthpiece receiver in the slide section. The slide section consists of a leadpipe, the inner and outer slide tubes, and the bracing, or "stays". Modern stays are soldered, while sackbuts (medieval precursors to trombones) were made with loose, unsoldered stays.

The 'slide', the most distinctive feature of the trombone (cf. valve trombone), allows the player to extend the length of the air column, lowering the pitch. To prevent friction from slowing the action of the slide, additional sleeves known as stockings were developed during the Renaissance. These "stockings" were soldered onto the ends of the inner slide tubes. Nowadays, the stockings are incorporated into the manufacturing process of the inner slide tubes and represent a fractional widening of the tube to accommodate the necessary method of alleviating friction. This part of the slide must be lubricated frequently. Additional tubing connects the slide to the bell of the instrument through a neckpipe, and bell or back bow (U-bend). The joint connecting the slide and bell sections is furnished with a threaded collar to secure the connection of the two parts of the instrument, though older models from the early 20th century and before were usually equipped with friction joints and no ancillary mechanism to tighten the joint.

Famous People who played
the trombone:

  • Bill Engvall (Blue Collar Comedy Tour)

  • Nelly Furtado (singer)

  • Tony Stewart (NASCAR Driver)


Have a trombone to pick with someone?

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